Buck's Blog

The Stream-of-Consciousness Journal of a Wargamer
  • .: Welcome to my blog :.

    I'm John R. "Buck" Surdu. I have two Web pages that contain relatively static information about my professional life (including papers I've written) and my hobby life (including information about rules I've written and my wargaming projects). This blog is where I plan to post personal tidbits, like vacation pictures, wargaming projects, etc. Enjoy!
  • Cold Wars in the HAWKs Room

    Posted By on March 19, 2019

    Below are some pictures I took in the HAWKs room this past weekend at Cold Wars.


    Greg’s This is Not a Test game on winter terrain:

    Duncan’s Soynara Gringo game:

    This game is based on a report in the newspapers in 1916.  It was reported that Japanese had landed in Mexico and were preparing to invade the US.  In this scenario, Japanese with a few Mexicans were attacking into Mexico.

    Dave Wood’s Colonial Combat Patrol(TM) game:

    Zeb Cook’s High Himalayas pulp game:

    My Combat Patrol(TM) 1939 Winter War game:


    Chris Palmer’s Feudal Patrol(TM) War of the Roses game:

    This game featured the under-development Feudal Patrol rules based on Combat Patrol(TM): WWII.

    My Barbarossa Combat Patrol(TM) game:

    This game involved German infantry supported by the 211th Armored Battalion, which was equipped with captured French tanks, attacking the Russians near Murmansk.   This scenario was based on a true incident.

    Thou it didn’t win an award, I was quite happy with the look of the table.  The players seemed to have a good time.

    Bill Molyneau running Beer and Pretzels Ironclads:


    Mike and Kevin Fisher running a stompy robot game:

    My GASLIGHT game, called Tales of the Gold Monkey:

    This was a typical GASLIGHT free-for-all with multiple factions trying to round up treasure in the jungle.  Most of the board was just palm trees.  As the factions began to explore I placed more terrain, natives, creatures, and treasure.

    Geoff’s Lego Pirate game for kids:

    Dave Wood’s Look, Sarge, No Charts: World War II game:

    This was the first war-game ever for the person in the green shirt on the right.

    Harry and Michael Kogleshotz’ Samurai game:

    Harry used Blood and Swash for this game.

    Steve’s WWI game:

    Bill Acheson’s Combat Patrol(TM) game set in Italy:

    Bill had a relative who won a Distinguished Service Cross in this battle.

    There were a number of other nice games, but I was busy running my four games and didn’t get pictures of them all.  Zeb Cook ran a very nice looking Finland 1939 game using Combat Patrol(TM), but I don’t have any pictures of it.

    Ducks on the Ghost Archipelago

    Posted By on March 10, 2019

    Today we played our monthly campaign game of Ghost Archipelago.  I have been crazy busy at work so for me “monthly” has been more like “every four or five months.”  While the other crews are at sixth or eighth level, I was at zero level today.

    My Heritor is Robin Duck (top right of the picture).  My Warden, at the bottom of the picture, is Friar Duck.  At this point in the game, three of my normal crewmen were fighting a ghoul to gain control of a treasure while my Heritor and Warden moved forward to challenge Greg’s crew for a central treasure.  You can see Devil Duck in the lead.  He looks cool, but he is just a minion.

    Her you can see that MacDuck, my Guide, has rushed forward and is fighting one of Greg’s minions.  Duckhilda (the blonde), an archer, and two of my minions have advanced.

    Here you can see Robin Duck, MacDuck, and an archer in a bit of jungle firing arrows at some of Greg’s crewmen.

    This is another view of the game.

    In the end, I lost no figures (for a change), captured a treasure, and captured a “central treasure.”  In the process I killed three of Greg’s minions and knocked out his Warden.  It was an unusually successful game for me.

    As an infrequent campaigner, I don’t take the campaign too seriously.  I think the Frostgrave / Ghost Archipelago schtick is getting old.  For me, the monthly games are more about hanging out with the guys and swapping puns and funny stories.   It is also a chance to get my ducks on the table.

    Some WWII Tanks

    Posted By on March 4, 2019

    This weekend we were supposed to see my son’s Ultimate Frisbee tournament, but it was cancelled due to weather, so I had a chance to knock out some vehicles that have been in the project queue.

    The first was a Churchill Mk. VII Crocodile.  This is a Tamiya 1:48 scale kit.

    The second was a Sherman “Easy Eight.”

    Finally, I completed two Dingo Mk. II scout cars.

    In addition to these WWII vehicle, I also completed an AT-ST.  Like all Bandai kits, this one had nice, clear instructions and assembled quite easily.


    Play Test of “Tales of the Gold Monkey” Game

    Posted By on March 2, 2019

    Last night at the club meeting I play tested my Tales of the Gold Monkey game for Cold Wars in two weeks.  For this game I am using the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. rules, but I gave all the extras a Save as well as the Main Characters.  The game began with most of the board blank, covered with palm trees.  As the different groups of explorers and adventurers pushed into the jungle, they discovered different sources of treasure, from a native village to idols with jeweled eyes.  These were, of course, guarded by natives, animals, or monster.  Each player had a “cut” card they could use for one free re-roll.  In addition, each player had three dirty tricks cards they could use to slow down other players.

    Jake Cutter and the Sergeants Three gangs move out.

    The table at the beginning of the game. The players begin near the trading post by the lagoon.

    A closer view of the trading post.

    Bing, Bob, Dorothy, and the Andrews Sisters of Mercy climb a ridge to find a lizard idol with jewels for eyes.  Later in the game, Bing and Bob killed a couple of Italians with golf balls.

    A giant spider has other ideas for Bing and Bob.

    It’s a grim day for the Andrews Sisters of Mercy.

    And then to add insult to injury, another player played a dirty tricks card that had a herd of oryx stampede through them.

    Despite all their setbacks, and the death of Dorothy being gored by an oryx, Bob and Bing were able to retrieve one treasure.

    The Italians found the lost elephant idol — but it was guarded by pygmies.

    The Italians lost many men to pygmy attacks but were able to get a treasure at the elephant idol.

    A much-reduced Italian contingent is attacked by an angry elephant (another player’s dirty trick), but they managed to secure a second treasure at the raptor excavation.

    The French Foreign Legion ran into apes guarding an idol.

    There seemed to be a never-ending supply of apes!

    The foreign legion found a treasure after defeating a LOT of apes. They also found Amelia Earhart and a boat and were headed down the river to the lagoon when they were attacked by giant tentacles of some unseen monster. In a “Von Ryan’s Express” moment, the last Legionnaire tried to leap into the boat as it floated past. He rolled a 20, fell into the water, and was eaten by the crocodile you can see in the bottom right of this picture.

    Teddy Roosevelt, two “dangerous dames,” the lady photographer, and his band of fearless adventurers ran into natives guarding an idol. As Kurt was the first one to find a treasure, players played FOUR dirty tricks cards on him, stacking up natives. But Kurt has perennial kid luck and easily swept them aside.

    At this point, the Easter Island heads at the lagoon turned around and started to cut off Teddy’s path back to the lagoon. Teddy and his group tried to cross the river to avoid them but ran into some trouble.

    The Sergeants Three found a native village where they were preparing to sacrifice a white woman for some purpose.

    It took some time, but in the end the Sergeants One (as two died) freed the woman and advanced on another idol.

    The Sergeant One approaches the idol to get a second treasure, but Jake Cutter and Professor Challenger beat them to it.

    Jake Cutter and the American infantry ran into a giant scorpion defending the lost temple. Almost all the American infantry were killed, but Don was able to grab the treasure and also find Professor Challenger to add to his party.

    The game was sufficiently chaotic and bloody, so I don’t plan to make any changes before Cold Wars.  I think all the players had a really good time.  This will make a good Saturday night game at the convention.

    Preparing for my “Tales of the Gold Monkey” GASLIGHT Game

    Posted By on February 27, 2019

    I am going to run a GASLIGHT game at Cold Wars that is very loosely based on the Tales of the Gold Monkey television show.  Each player will have a group of explorers and will set out to find treasure.  They will have cards that they can play on each other to slow down the other teams with wild animals, natives, natural disasters, and monsters.  The table will be mostly empty except for some jungle.  When the players move into terra incognita, I will place different terrain pieces on the table.

    Team 1: Teddy Roosevelt and some odd explorers.

    Team 2: Jake Cuter and some Americans.

    Team 3: The sergeants from Gunga Din and some friends.

    Team 4: Bing, Bob, Dorothy, and the Andrews Sisters of Mercy.

    Some native fun that must be stopped.

    Team 5: Germans.

    Team 6: Brits.

    Team 7: Italians.

    Team 8: French Foreign Legion.

    Will the players rescue Amelia Earhart?

    Will the players pry the eyes out of this idol?

    Or will they ransack this temple?

    Hydra Miniatures Retro Raygun Valkeeri

    Posted By on February 25, 2019

    Some years ago, I purchase the dismounted Hydra Miniatures Valkeeri, and I use them as “Venusians” or other suitable aliens for my pulp games.

    Dismounted Valkeeri from Hydra Miniatures.

    A few months ago I ordered several of them on rocket sleds.  Today I finished painting them.  I didn’t get the skin color to match exactly, but they are close enough.

    Watch for these in a GASLIGHT game near you.

    Work in Progress Terrain Project

    Posted By on February 25, 2019

    Over a year ago, I purchased some of Terra Former products from Sally 4th.  See https://wargamesbuildings.co.uk/epages/950003459.sf/en_GB/?ObjectPath=/Shops/950003459/Categories/TerraFormers.  I really like these, but I have been hesitant to get started.  Last weekend, I worked on a couple of them, and this weekend I finished laying in the foam and cork bark on the 15 that I purchased.  From these pictures you can see how they turned out.  They certainly don’t look as good as the ones that Sally 4th makes to display — and that Chris Abbey uses in his gaming room — but when I finish them, I think they will be good.

    Here is one view of the 15 tiles I made. They can be arranged in different ways for different games. While slightly less flexible than Dwarven Forge, I think these are significantly more practical to set up and take down.

    The tile in the front right slants downward so that the doorway on that side is at table level. All the others are two inches above the table.

    There are three doorways that you can punch out on each side. I just punched out the middle doorways to ensure that the results would be geomorphic. Some are four-way, some three-way, some two-way (either a turn or straight), and some are dead ends.

    Because the base of each tile is filled with two inches of insulation foam, I was able to cut into the top layer to make some depressions. The round one toward the top center of the picture will eventually be filled with molten lava.

    The rock formations are made of cork bark.  You can buy bags of it on Amazon.  It does not cut easily, and I had to use a jigsaw.  I was wishing I had a band saw.

    I hope to begin to paint them entirely in chocolate brown next weekend, inside and out.  The next step will be to mix some sand in the same chocolate brown and paint the mixture on the horizontal surfaces and walls that down’t have cork bark.  Then I will dry brush all of it with a lighter brown.  After that, I may add a few rocks and other items to give it some character.

    Once completed, the boxes have holes on the side.  They came with rare earth magnets.  When I glue in the magnets, the tiles will connect securely during game play.

    What will I do with this?  Part of the project was just DOING it.  It is something I’ve not done before.  You can imagine any number of scenarios that can make use of tunnels.  It could be an Indian tunnel, and the Army could attack.  I’ll almost certainly use these for my giant ant games.  I may run some sort of dungeon crawl as well.  I am sure they will be well used once I finish them.

    Progress on Albedo Combat Patrol Activation Decks

    Posted By on February 22, 2019

    I recently received the artwork for the Activation cards from the artist. To that artwork I added the card serial number, copyright information, and morale results. I think they look pretty good. See what you think of these samples.


    Another Approach to LSNC: Sci Fi

    Posted By on February 19, 2019

    I have been making a number of abortive attempts at LSNC: Sci-Fi.  I am trying to take into account the difference between directed and kinetic energy weapons, represent different types of motivations (wheels, tracks, hover, legs), RF-guided weapons, thermal sensors, unmanned systems, and cyber/EW.  The first attempt used the shooting and defense numbers very much like LSNC: WWII, but it didn’t seem like the d10 provided enough variance for sci-fi.  Then I tried to use the card-based mechanic like Combat Patrol, but it didn’t quite work for a non-skirmish game.  It seemed like we were shooting Nerf balls.  In all previous cases, the amount of information needed on the base tables was getting hard to fit.  I have been playing around with a dice progression idea that includes more than the standard D&D set of polymorphic dice.

    In this example, you can see that moving to a die progression mechanism simplifies the base label, because what is listed is a base capability, which is modified by the modifiers shown on the top half of the figure.  The idea is that modifiers of +1, +2, etc. move up and down the die progression.  Combat would be an opposed die roll.  I might start with a d10 to hit, but I am shooting on a unit’s flank, so i go to d14 (yes, they exist).  Your defense might be d10, but you are in woods (light cover), so you go to d12.  We roll.  If my attack roll exceeds your defense roll, I inflict a point of damage.  If my attack roll more than doubles your defense roll, I inflict two points of damage, knocking out a base.  I specifically didn’t have a capability to inflict two hits in WWII, but I think it would be good in Sci-Fi.

    The advantage of such a system is that I could attack you with a d4, and you could defend with a d24, but I might still score a lucky hit.  I was explicitly trying to prevent this in LSNC: WWII, but I think it makes sense for Sci-Fi.

    Why the special dice instead of just using more than one die?  Rolling 1 die, produces random numbers from a uniform distribution.  Rolling more dice produces random numbers from a distribution that looks like the normal (i.e., bell curve) distribution.  The more dice you roll, the more the results will tend toward the mean.  So I think all rolls need to be the same number of dice, 1, 2, 3, or whatever.  I like one die per roll.

    An opposed die roll for shooting and defense seems right to me.

    The bottom half of the card, could represent a unit roster for a player as a series of labels, or the labels could be cut out and pasted to the bases.  I went with a darker color scheme so they won’t stand out so much on the terrain.

    I like the idea of a reaction number instead of an opportunity fire rule.  This could also be used for other purposes in the game.   There is no room for it on the label.

    The movement table is a recognition that as I have been working on this, there is a pattern for the different types of vehicles (and infantry), which is represented in the table now.  I figure that people won’t have to refer to it much after a turn or two.

    I also think players won’t have to refer to the card to remember the defense and attack modifiers.  I wonder if the shooting and defense modifiers should be different for directed and kinetic energy weapons.  What do you think?

    My biggest concern with this approach is that people will get frustrated looking for the die they need. I was careful to collect dice so that each die type is always the same color (e.g., the d20 is always dark gray), which I hope will help.  The need to purchase several sets of these dice, one for each player, means that this game will likely be commercially non-viable.   I was thinking that if I sold these through Sally 4th, we could package up sets of dice in canonical colors, but if it is annoying, people won’t play.  As I’ve not had a set of rules that fall into the “cool rules” category, perhaps I should be sweating this.  What do you think?

    Commandos Strike at Dawn

    Posted By on February 17, 2019

    This Saturday, Greg and I ran our commando raid game with Combat Patrol(TM).  From the play test a couple of weeks ago we added a few more commandos, but the commandos actually did worse!

    Commandos sneaking through he woods.

    The commandos started well, keeping to the woods to avoid being spotted.  But then things went badly, and the commandos made some bad calls.

    The fighting begins.

    The commandos entered a patch of woods from two directions.  They activated first, and discovered a german team in the woods, but the Germans hadn’t spotted them yet.  Because of the alert level, the Germans weren’t able to move.  Instead of moving to avoid contact, the Commandos charged into them.  This was their first big mistake.  The German player “rolled” exceedingly well in hand to hand combat, making noise, killing a commando, and raising the alert level even farther.

    The fighting grows.

    This is when the commandos made their second mistake that sealed their fate.  Instead of holding this German team with one group of commandos and continuing to the objective with the other three, they pushed everyone into a general engagement.  This raised the alert level farther, releasing German reinforcements, and bogged the commandos down far from their objective for several turns.  Though the commandos got the upper hand eventually, by they time they cleared the woods (which was not a part of their objective), the German reinforcements had arrived, and other units were released to move to the sound of the guns.

    A Pz 38(t) advances.

    The Germans had pretty well cut off commando access to the chateau with the general they were trying to kill.  The Pz 38(t) arrived and gunned down the only two commandos who got near the chateau (despite the coax jamming).  At this point, the commando players failed their player morale, and we called the game a German victory.

    Despite the lopsided outcome, the players had a good time, I think.  It was a nice group of players who were there to have a good time, so it was a fun game.